What makes this so disturbing is that this was entirely coordinated...
My ultimate ambition is to be able to afford to retire from the game beacuse it drives me berserk. DAVID FEHERTY
John Strege points out Scott Verplank's disappointment with some of the changes at Riviera, which this year included bizarre add-ons to the 11th and 17th that were not carried out very gracefully. It's not a good sign when PGA Tour pros can tell...
"They've changed it a little bit, but they haven't ruined it," said Scott Verplank who, heading into the final round, stands tied for fourth in the Northern Trust Open, six shots behind leader Phil Mickelson.
"They haven't ruined it" smacks of damning it with faint praise. Several greens have been expanded by architect Tom Fazio and his design associate Tom Marzolf, though not necessarily as a counter to their tending to shrink over time. They've been expanded in places where there has never been green before, contrary to architect George Thomas' original design.
"I haven't been all that impressed with some of the changes," Verplank said, "but the golf course is so great. As long as you don't do anything too major, it's a brilliant place. They changed some of the greens a little bit, and it seemed to be a little bit out of character with Riviera, but it's still great. Every great golf course goes through stages of changing it and tinkering with it and all that. It would be pretty hard to mess this one up too much."
It should be noted the Tour is not using the new wing locations on the 17th and only used the front spots on No. 11 (I'm sparing your photos...it's more of the same incongruous stuff as they've done in the past).
Why try to convey just how royally hosed the late/morning tee times were when I can have Phil Mickelson do it for me:
The early/late tee times had a huge advantage this week. A lot of the times, most of the weeks, it doesn't make too much of a difference but every now and then, there will be an advantage on one wave, and we certainly had that. I mean, all of the scores that are any good, 90 percent of them are from the early/late wave. We avoided wind yesterday morning. It died down this afternoon. Just we got very lucky.The conditions made late/early starter Fred Couples' -2 performance that much more amazing. And speaking of Freddie, John Strege writes that the two-time winner at Riviera plans to keep coming back as long as they'll have him. Judging by the paltry crowds and the huge proportion following Fred, they'll invite him back until he's using a walker.
Let's start with Weir, who rudely held back Geoff Ogilvy and Shaun Micheel with all of his twitching and false starts. On the par-5 11th, Weir drives it in the trees and lays up beautifully in the 12-inch kikuyu barranca. He asks the marshal where the ball entered and the volunteer points to where he swore it entered. Well, just as the five minute marked wrapped up, Ogilvy finds the ball about 7 or so yards away. Weir simply turns and scowls at the marshal. Classy touch Mike!
Weir then spends the next 3 minutes considering his options before finally taking an unplayable drop. From that point on the group was a hole behind and eventually put on the clock on No. 13. So Weir picks up the pace right? No, he never seemed to make much of an attempt to speed up as long as I was watching. He does not ever play ready golf, instead starting his pre-shot research and routine only when it's his turn.
The low point came on No. 15 when Ogilvy asked if he could hit out of turn because Weir was mysteriously lollygagging down the fairway even as they remained on the clock and a hole behind.
Then there's Ben Crane, paired with two other slow pokes in Trevor Immelman and Sergio Garcia. After holding up everyone behind him and reportedly having already been put on the club 3(!) times in 36-holes even though there are 24 groups spread over 18 holes (kinda hard to fall a hole behind!), Crane was standing in the TV scrum area outside the scoring room. When one of the players in the group behind him entered the hallway, he saw Crane and looked right at him and said, "Hurry the $@%# up!" Crane didn't hear him (of course).
Later on the locker room the f-bombs were flying like it was sailors night out, with Crane's name flying off the walls of Riviera's locker room.
Now, Golf Digest's Tim Rosaforte asks in a blog post if "144 players too many for a West Coast tour stop -- or are these guys just too slow?"
In talking to the rules staff, they say yes, the field needs to be reduced.
However, I responded with two points.
One, the course has been lengthened and the 10th, 11th and 17th are all reachable now, adding many of the logjams or timely walks that never existed. And two, cutting the field means you'll likely cut the spots that go to local qualifiers who add a unique flavor to the event. So before they go calling for a 132 player field, perhaps a stronger pace of play policy should be tried before ending an important local tradition.
I didn't see any of the first round telecast from Riviera so I'm not sure if they were able to convey just how strong the gusts were. It was a cruel fate for the afternoon times who drew swirling, cold Santa Ana wind gusts (with more apparently forecast for the morning play). There is no way to describe how good Geoff Ogilvy's late 69, Dustin Johnson's 3-under through 15 total and in progress rounds by Kevin Sutherland and Chez Reavie were considering the extreme conditions.
I tagged along for 11 holes of Ogilvy's round and his game appeared quite sharp. More alarming was the play
of partner Mike Weir, a two-time winner at Riviera who I've watched many times over the years. However, I had not actually followed him recently and while I love the look of his Stack and Tilt swing, everything that happens right up to pulling the trigger is painful to watch. His caddy is constantly asking marshal's to move and his Monty-like ability to hear all sounds leads to constant restarting of his pre-shot routine. Weir won't even pull his driver on obvious driver holes until his caddy rests the bag down next to the teeing position.
As usual the tenth hole proved to be a joy. Playing downwind most of the day 3-wood was often the option for many players. A quick look at ShotLink showed that laying up was a mistake today thanks in part to the green firmness.
Though I'm still kicking myself for missing Tom Pernice's hole out for double bogey. Shucks! Apparently he went back and forth between No. 10's greenside bunkers, which was easy to do today with the back left hole location and firm, fast greens.
I finally got around to Doug Ferguson's always entertaining weekly notes column, this week featuring a fun lead item on Rory's long lost cousin, Jonathan Kaye, who weighed in on several topics, starting with drug testing and eventually, his lengthy suspension.
"I don't see a need for it. I don't think anyone is on steroids,'' he said. ``They're opening themselves up for a stringer, especially if we don't have a players' union, or a universal voice where we can be heard, instead of being squashed by a dictator.''
That would be PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, with whom Kaye has crossed frequently.
His most notorious incident, which led to a four-month suspension, came in Kingsmill in 2001 when a security guard asked to see Kaye's tour badge. According to several published accounts, Kaye returned to his car and displayed the badge below the belt.
"I got the largest suspension ever on tour ... for what?'' he said. "I lose my job, and I lose my sponsorship. I felt the brunt of the tour when they're trying to squash you. I felt like Brian McNamee.''
He also doesn't like the new cut policy, and when told the Players Advisory Council would be meeting Tuesday at Riviera, that didn't seem to allay his concerns.
"There's not one person on the PAC that I voted for,'' Kaye said.
I often hear Marty's voice as I contemplate adding more color in my life, but then I see outfits like this and a white shirt-khaki pant combo doesn't seem so bad.
Sergio Garcia, round 1 at Riviera:
Finally someone (Doug Ferguson) files a piece on the possible Rule 78 change following Tuesday's meeting.
A tour official said on Wednesday that the 16-man Players Advisory Council, which met this week at Riviera Country Club, wants to return to the traditional 36-hole cut of the top 70 and ties. If that results in more than 78 players, another cut on Saturday to the top 70 and ties would help reduce the field for the final round.This should be interesting considering that the four involved have been vocal in defending Rule 78:
The policy board will vote on the proposal at its Feb. 25 meeting at the Honda Classic in Florida. Because it relates to competition, the vote must get majority approval by four players on the nine-member board.
"It was the most phenomenal week of golf that I've ever had."
"I have never, ever, ever putted that well I don't think," says Walters, who admits to having the yips in the weeks leading up to the tournament but received a magic grip that ended those. "I don't think I ever missed anything inside of 10 feet the entire tournament."
"This might have been the best ham and egg job of all time," says Walters.
Let's get the important gossip out of the way first: Phil is an iphone man. I'm sorry to all you Motorola and Nokia hopefuls, but I just report what I see.
A twenty degree temperature drop did not improve my odds of getting decent answers out of the PGA Tour's finest. I was working the range and putting green in search of interesting quotes for a story I'm working on and mostly heard the same stuff I've heard for the last few weeks. Perhaps everyone was just too overwhelmed to speak after seeing Vijay's new swing, which looks a lot worse in person.
Stack and Tilt man Andy Plummer was on the side tee and I spent an enjoyable few minutes hearing about his background and teaching philosophy. It's incredible how many players appear to be adopting S&T.
The best rumor of the day comes from a player who says that Paul Azinger is so worked up over drug testing that he is attempting to organize a player revolt starting July 1st when the tests begin. I think I'm understanding why we did not have a media room sit down with Azinger and the PGA of America's Julius Mason, a Ryder Cup year tradition in L.A.
And finally, my favorite images of the day, starting with an underwear-challenged volunteer followed by an unidentified player who practiced his putting one-handed for a solid 15 minutes. Granted, it was a belly putter but still, could it be the next big thing?
Commissioner Tim Finchem for a Golf Channel roundtable with Tim Rosaforte, Rich Lerner and New York Times correspondent Larry Dorman as part of a what media tenters said is an intentional "rebranding." Oddly, it did not include an exclusive to GeoffShackelford.com's reporter on the property, but I'll keep trying.
While Golf Channel hasn't posted the interview online (and scheduled to air this weekend on Golf Central), we have a few hints of what to look for. Note the photo from PGATour.com, where Larry Dorman looks like he's just sat through one of the Commish's mind numbingly wordy answers.
Helen Ross at PGATour.com sat in on the chat and shares some of the stunning revelations we can look forward to.
Finchem talked about drug-testing, the success of the FedExCup and the TOUR's new cut policy, which is currently being reviewed. The most interesting part of the wide-ranging, 45-minute discussion, though, may have been about the commissioner himself.
Like his prowess in the kitchen, which is as considerable as Finchem's solid 5 handicap on the relatively rare occasions he gets to play golf. While it's been written that he's a gourmet cook, Finchem stopped well short of calling himself a chef.
"I follow recipes -- there's a big difference between that and being a chef," a relaxed Finchem said with a smile. "I find cooking to be therapeutic. I don't know if I am a single digit handicap as a cook, though. It depends on what I'm cooking."
And what would a Finchem rebranding be without a mention of that Steel Wheels tour, back when Charlie Watts had dark hair and people still bought CD's.
Finchem, as the father of three teenaged daughters, is marginally acquainted with hip-hop and rap. His tastes, though, run more toward classic rock and roll, most specifically the Rolling Stones and the Eagles.
"Steel Wheels, was in '89, '90," Finchem said, "flexing his rock and roll chops," Lerner interjected. "In '94 when the Stones were in San Francisco during THE TOUR Championship, that was a pretty good show.
"(I like) the Eagles, too. I went with Peter Jacobsen in '96 to see the Eagles, and of course, Glenn Frey is a big (golfer). They're probably the best band of all time. I've seen them twice since. They put on a phenomenal show."
You don't think Freud would have something to say about Finchem's favorite song?
Among his favorite Eagles songs is Already Gone. "The song just makes you feel freedom," Finchem said. "Just personal freedom. It's about unchaining from a relationship but in a broader sense, the feel, the rhythm is kind of airy feeling."
Already gone? Hmmm...wonder if that's what he cranks up on those days when John Daly is being John Daly?
Tim Rosaforte, Tim Finchem at Riviera after the Commish's appearance to settle the Rule 78 issue. What is being said?
Greetings from the
Los Angeles Open Glen Campell Los Angeles Open Los Angeles Open Presented by Nissan Nissan Los Angeles Open Nissan Open Northern Trust Open. The new sponsors clearly have money to burn along with the PGA Tour's best championship management folks whispering in their ears. The signage and presentation has been classed up (except for one tacky decision you can see in the photo below). More importantly, the media center upgraded significantly (I know that's just the news you were waiting to hear).
I toured the back nine today with John Mutch of the PGA Tour field staff and watched him prepare his plans for hole locations and tee placement. The excellent greens seem soft to the foot but balls are taking a nice first bounce before checking, so it should be a lot like last year's excellent event where you'll see plenty of good rounds rewarding accurate play and yet a nice dispersion of scores. The way it should be.
Sadly, the pre-tournament talk is not about green firmness but instead, about rough, which is very benign. Just once it would be refreshing to read a pre-tournament article about how they are hoping to firm things up, not about rough heights and density. With today's grooves, it really is pointless to worry about rough when it's firmness that tests the players.
As always, the highlight included watching guys play No. 10. Steve Marino missed a hole in one by two inches, but even more fun was talking to Zach Johnson about his strategy depending on the hole location. Laying up all four days is not in the cards.
Tiger's absense certainly can be felt in the size of the crowd, which was tiny. However, I haven't yet to hear anyone say they really miss him. Which is good since I don't think he'll be back anytime soon. Still, with 17 of the top 20 in the world on a great layout with a solid weather forecast, the "Northern Trust" is doing just fine.
On his CBSSports.com blog, Steve Elling shares this from Fred Funk:
"Not everybody’s in great shape on the Champions Tour or the regular tour," said Fred Funk, appearing at media day Monday for the Ginn Championship in Palm Coast, Fla. "I’m going to throw Steve Lowery under the bus. Yesterday, I came back from practicing, and I got home just in time for the playoff, and here’s Vijay Singh, who works out who knows how many hours a day plus hitting balls how many hours a day – 12 hours of his day is some sort of working out or practicing.
"Steve Lowery looks like he might do 10 minutes of breathing exercises or something. Steve is a great player, but it just doesn’t mean a whole hill of beans all the time."
Here was Steve at Riviera today. Fred might be onto something:
Golf Channel is doing the ESPN thing by airing a show celebrating themselves and their construction of an on-site studio to host their various shows this week. However, they promise a segment on Riviera's history, which I talked to them about. Not sure if I'll make the final edit, but just in case there are small children watching, I thought you should be warned.
Air times are Wednesday, February 13th from 7:30 PM - 8:00 PM EST and 1:00-1:30 A.M EST.
A couple of interesting bits over on GolfDigest.com flesh out the Chambers Bay-2015 U.S. Open story, starting with this hunch-confirming item from Ron Sirak that indeed, the USGA was hoping to not prevent a repeat of Whistling Straits.
When Whistling Straits opened to raves in 1998, the PGA of America acted quickly and in January 2000 awarded the Wisconsin course the 2004 PGA Championship, essentially planting its flag on the property. Whistling Straits performed so well it was given the PGA in 2010 and 2015 as well as the 2020 Ryder Cup. The USGA made certain it did not miss out on Chambers Bay.Meanwhile Ron Whitten does an amazing job on short notice (or did he have advance warning!?) filling us in on details about Chambers and the quest to get an Open. One of the more interesting things we learn is this note on the tees:
"I think that is a fair representation," USGA president James F. Vernon said when asked if Whistling Straits provided a lesson. "We thought we had found something special [in Chambers Bay], and we wanted to, not stake a claim, but we really did want to make it clear that we wanted to have an opportunity to have a championship on it."
There is hardly a flat spot on the premises, and that includes the tee boxes. In what may be the first truly original design idea of the 21st century, Charlton convinced his colleagues to abandon traditional tee pads in favor of long, skinny, free-flowing ribbons of teeing space. Many are not much wider than walking paths; many are recessed rather than elevated; most are gently contoured with a variety of flats spots just the size of throw rugs. The idea is to pick the lie that might best help shape a shot off the tee: sidehill lies if you wish to fade or draw the ball, a slightly uphill lie if you need help getting airborne, a downhill lie if you want to keep it under the wind, or a flat lie. It's too early to know whether USGA officials will accept those unorthodox teeing areas for the U.S. Open. Jones hopes they will.
"We'll probably address that after the  U.S. Amateur," he says. "But it's not like there are no flat spots out there. We have dozens of 'batter's boxes' within the undulations. I would hope they'd position the markers far apart and let golfers chose their particular lies. Our goal was to get into the players' minds, even on the tee, and to put some integrity back into tee shots. Don't let them just stick a peg in the ground and bomb it."
Wouldn't it be great if they USGA embraced this and sent a message that tees do not have to be perfectly level? Or is that just too retro for you?
In John Hawkins' latest edition of the Aristocratic Golfer, he vents about the poor venue choice for next week's WGC Accenture Match Play. He somehow manages to make a lousy point that leads directly to an excellent point that often seems to go overlooked in Ponte Vedra when selecting new venues:
Forgive me for trying to make sense, but why not move the Match Play north to the TPC Scottsdale? Pro golf's largest galleries would totally invigorate this feeble gathering -- it's hard to imagine those crowds getting any smaller if they were given a field full of top-50s.
Okay, so that makes no sense. You don't break up the Phoenix Open/FBR at TPC Scottsdale for the WGC match play. However, the thinking was sound:
Because of the format, which comes with a higher risk in terms of holding TV viewers, no week on the schedule relies more on peripheral factors to make it a success.
On-site buzz ranks first, second and third on the periphery. Of course, it's easy for me to say. I wasn't in the board room when the tour agreed to transfer the elephants to a petting zoo.
A case could be made that on-site buzz is fueled in part by compelling architecture that excites fans. And playing within 15 miles a population base helps too.
After all, he's no Phil Harris.
From the Sports Media Watch blog:
2.6/5: PGA Tour on CBS, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Final Round (3 PM Sunday)
1.9/5: PGA Tour on CBS, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Third Round (3 PM Saturday)
* While the Pro Bowl and NASCAR saw their ratings increase, the PGA saw major declines for the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Third round coverage drew a 1.9 on Saturday, down 24% from last year, and final round coverage drew a 2.6 on Sunday, down 16%.
"The noose is not a symbol of prairie justice, but of gross injustice," the president said. "Displaying one is not a harmless prank, and lynching is not a word to be mentioned in jest."
As a civil society, Americans should agree that noose displays and lynching jokes are "deeply offensive," Bush said.
"They are wrong. And they have no place in America today."
For my recent Golf World story on short par-4s, the PGA Tour's communications department provided me all sorts of fascinating stats and "scatter charts" produced from its ShotLink system. There were so many interesting little details that popped up, but one of my favorite was this clear demonstration of how a change at Riviera's 10th impacted play in 2007.
From about 1993 to 2006, a short grass chipping area had been cut on the front left of the green and was one of the reasons the hole vaulted to its place as the world's best short par-4. As I noted in the Golf World sidebar on No. 10, this was the work of Jim McPhilomy, Peter Oosterhuis and consulting architects Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore.
In 2007, apparently having not gotten the memo that the 10th hole was cited as one of the best holes in the universe, architect Tom Marzolf jacked around with the bunkers, adding several tacky capes and bays while expanding the lay up aiming bunker. But worst of all, he eliminated the short grass area next to the green that had added so much intrigue (see above photo).
I believe it's one reason why there was a 20% increase in players driving the green in 2007. Having longer grass near the green meant balls would stay closer to the putting surface and provide a simpler recovery shot.
So check out the 2006 "scatter chart" with the short grass area (blue means pars made from that tee shot location, red means birdie, blue means par, black means bogey and yellow means eagle).
And now look at the 2007 chart, with the cluster of birdies congregating in the front left area that used to be tightly mown. A fine example how short grass makes a hole more difficult...in a good way: